The Incheon Declaration for Education 2030 (2015) of the global community, embodied in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) No. 4, gives education the main role as a guarantee of development of the remaining SDGs.
And what kind of Education 2030 is this, for the complex and contradictory world in which we live (and will live)?
- On the one hand, economic growth and wealth creation have reduced global poverty rates. On the other hand, the intensification of globalization has produced, in recent decades, growing inequality, youth unemployment and vulnerable employment;
- Unsustainable patterns of human development largely contribute to climate change, ecosystem degradation and the increase in natural disasters;
- Alongside disruptive technological innovations, with great potential for cooperation and solidarity, we are witnessing recent forms of populism, which produce setbacks in human, civil and social rights in adult democracies, conquered over decades.
Education must find ways to deal with these contradictions. It's never been more urgent.
Current international conceptual frameworks proposed to address these challenges have focused on the concept of “competence”, for example the OECD Key Competencies or more recently the Learning Compass 2030, highlighting the types of competences that students need in order to “navigate” to the future we want, individually and collectively:
“To meet the challenges of the 21st century, students need to be empowered and feel that they can help shape a world where well-being and sustainability – for themselves, for others and for the planet – are achievable. The OECD’s 2030 Learning Compass identifies three ‘transformative competencies’ that learners need to contribute to and thrive in the world and shape a better future: creating new values, reconciling tensions and dilemmas, and taking responsibility.” (OECD, 2019, p. 16).
Competencies are understood here as the integration of knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that allow effective action in the construction of individual and social well-being.
To achieve this purpose of individual and collective well-being, the OECD refers to the need for students to exercise agency, both in their education and in their daily lives, participating in the world, positively influencing people, events and circumstances. “Agency” is understood as the ability to define a motive and identify actions to achieve a certain goal, in a self-determined way.
To help students develop their agency, educators must not only recognize their individuality, but also the broader set of relationships they have with their teachers, peers, families, and communities, becoming co-agents on the one hand and on the other, helping to develop the skills necessary for this agency, which is authentic because it is significant for both, as it is anchored in the local context and because it aspires to a common good.
Curriculum development must therefore evolve from a static and linear progression model, centered on disciplinary knowledge, to a dynamic, non-linear model that recognizes that each student must have their own personalized learning path, equipped with different skills, knowledge, attitudes, values and motivations. Educators, too, must recognize not only the individuality of their disciplines, but also the broader set of relationships between disciplines, and their relationship to society and the environment, as well as how they can contribute to the development of students' agency to build a better future (OECD, 2019).